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House forty years old, been here five years. Bits of drywall tape regularly dislodge and fall on the floor or car and I'm getting sick of it. I have begun scraping off the loose bits, but the middle parts of the drywall have very well adhered texture -- starting say six inches away from the joint.

Any guesses as to why this happened? And how can I tape if I can't really feather my edges due to existing texture near the joints?enter image description here

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    Do you know how the tape was applied? It should be mud, then tape placed on/in the wet mud, and more mud over it. It looks like not enough or no mud placed first.
    – crip659
    Commented Jun 11 at 12:38
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    Crip, I don't know how it was applied; it was before my time. Thanks
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 11 at 16:07

6 Answers 6

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That was a bad tape job and if you are in a high humidity area it was doomed to fail.

Get rid of all the paper tape. Use mesh tape as Traveler suggested. It does not require hotmud.

Apply the mesh tape and mud over it. It is sticky, but it will only stick for a few minutes when overhead, so apply maybe 10 feet of tape and mud over it and move on.

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  • Why mesh instead of paper? Ease of application/learning curve, or do you think it will hold more poorly even if applied correctly?
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 11 at 16:08
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    I think it's more of a preference. Paper tape may require a bit more care on install to make sure mud is underneath. Mesh tape the mud just pushes through, so you can just stick it to the surface. However, finishing work is more with mesh tape, since it is textured and thicker it requires more feathering and cate to not expose the mesh texture. Given this is a garage ceiling, many of those details may not matter to you, making mesh tape easier overall.
    – blarg
    Commented Jun 11 at 16:30
  • @Adam, all of your concerns are correct. I'm not a fan of paper tape, but that is me.
    – RMDman
    Commented Jun 11 at 17:57
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    I used to have so much trouble with paper tape that I'd dip it in water before applying it to get a better bond. Now that I'm more skilled with a knife I rarely have bubbles. It's a matter of practice, and paper tape is easier to finish, as blarg says. Mesh often left me with protruding fiber, which is a pain.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 11 at 18:26
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Some of the other answers have hinted at this, but let me be explicit: There's no mud behind the tape.

Paper drywall tape uses drywall mud (not to be confused with spackle) as the "glue" to hold it on. You typically skim coat the joints, then press the tape into the mud. Once it's firmed up some, you start coating over the tape. Once coated, the tape is invisible (modern drywall even tapers some into the edges for that reason).

Where your tape has come off, there's mostly nothing but clean drywall. It's impressive it stayed up there as long as it did.

And how can I tape if I can't really feather my edges due to existing texture near the joints?

Let me go in a different direction here: scrape your ceiling texture off. You can mud the taped areas with fiberglass mesh tape but the newly mudded areas will stick out like sore thumbs (the new mud/spackle will be whiter than the old textured mud). Instead, take a spray bottle with water and scrape it with a metal putty knife (which you will need to re-tape the ceiling).

Once you've removed all the texture, let it dry, sand it flat, then take your putty knife and some mud and properly tape the joints. Once dry, sand it flat and then paint it. Makes for a far easier maintenance if you every need to fix or change something.

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  • I would agree except that the bare areas where the mud has let go is wider than the tape. If it was just tape applied dry I would expect that 1) the bare channel would be exactly that width, and 2) all the tape in the garage would be badly blistered.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 11 at 20:38
  • Take a look at the joint running crosswise in the center of the photo. A lot more is coming loose than just the tape.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 11 at 20:41
  • Either no 'mud'/plaster behind the tape, or else it has not adhered at all to the plasterboard above. There are some indications of the latter, as @isherwood notes.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jun 12 at 8:09
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I don't see stains, but this usually indicates a moisture issue.

Could be excessive humidity if there isn't a leak, given lack of stains. You may need more ventilation to resolve that.

Perhaps just a crappy taping job in this case, though? Looks like there was no mud under the tape in many places from the pictures. That's not how drywall tape is supposed to be done.

You'll need to scrape or sand off the texture near the joints if you want it to look nice. Then again, it's a garage, not a living room, so visible joints might not be the end of the world - your call.

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    I can't understand how they got the tape to stay on the ceiling without mud behind it. Maybe it was masking tape?
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Jun 11 at 18:08
  • If this is an external garage (especially with a flat asphalted roof), the excessive humidity may be the first sign that the external roof coating is failing. Mould will be the second. Only then actual rainwater coming through. If internal, check the ventilation.
    – nigel222
    Commented Jun 12 at 9:26
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It looks like only the joint tape is coming off.

It could be due to improperly mounting, or other reasons.

Anyway, replace the tape with perforated tape that will hold better.

the perforated tape is made from fiber not paper (it is stronger). The mud penetrates the holes and provides adhesion to the drywall. The paper tape needs two steps. First a mud layer then the tape then another mud layer. In you case the first layer is missing.

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    I believe mesh requires hot mud, though, so just be prepared.
    – Huesmann
    Commented Jun 11 at 11:55
  • I did not know mesh holds better than paper. Is that only in high humidity areas like garages, or everywhere? I'm new.
    – Adam
    Commented Jun 11 at 16:09
  • "Masking tape"?
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 11 at 18:23
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    Mesh doesn't hold better unless the joint wasn't done well. Paper tape, properly applied, holds exactly as well as the mud behind it, just as mesh does.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 11 at 18:24
  • @Adam it holds better than paper because the mud penetrates the mesh and provides better bond. It is made out of fiber which is stronger than paper. It does not requires special mud.
    – Traveler
    Commented Jun 11 at 19:31
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There are multiple reasons this happens, in order of cause.

#1. No insulation above the drywall (If applicable)

#2. Garage is not heated, if not kept 50F or above this will happen.

This happens due to movement and temperature differentials. If this was caused by poor tape application, the interior of the house would be failing in the same manner. Perhaps a high glue joint compound like taping compound instead of all purpose may have made a difference, but it likely will have failed in a similar manner.

I really don't recommend mesh tape, it will fail unless installed with setting type compound. Properly installed Drywall tape has a slight tension after it dries and it is not as weak as on would think.

Sources:

In installing drywall as a pro, I had numerous situations where the garage wasn't insulated, and in the winter it would crack before I'd left the job. Other situations where the garage wasn't heated would always crack out in a few years, so I started telling customers that if it was important they needed to keep the garage a minimum temperature.

About mesh tape, I was called to fixed enough mesh tape + joint compound jobs to realize it wasn't a good way to tape. A drywall acquaintance of mine told me of a pro that finished a house (under pressure) without any tape, only hot mud. As of some years later, the house was reasonably crack free.

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  • USG used to have a page comparing paper tape and mesh tape, and they specifically stated that mesh tape was a weaker joint unless hot mud (setting compound) was used - unfortunately that page has gone to the great 404 in the sky, or been relocated somewhere I can't find it. They had test results showing that with drying type compound, paper tape was a stronger joint.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jun 11 at 23:12
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    @Ecnerwal. Is this the info you referenced? usg.com/content/dam/USG_Marketing_Communications/united_states/…
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 12 at 19:16
  • @Mark yes, that's it, or a close relative anyway!
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jun 12 at 19:42
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I'll chime in. There's a lot of wisdom and experience on display here, but I have my own theory. Some observations, to start:

  • The tape job may have been done properly. I see more than just the tape letting go, which counters the argument that the tape was (somehow) put up without mud behind it.

  • I don't see evidence of paint or anything on the drywall that would've prevented a good bond by the joint compound.

  • I don't see evidence of moisture, nor does this look like what I'd expect to see if moisture was the cause.

Therefore, I think the wrong product was used in the original finish job. I have no idea what that might have been, but spackle is a good suspect. Could also have been plaster, though that probably would've worked fine. The long and short of it is that whatever it is did not bond to the drywall wrapper properly.

Pull it all down. Scrape away anything that's loose or soft. Re-tape with quality joint compound and your choice of tape. I don't think it matters whether you use paper or mesh here. Scrape away some of the texture and just feather it out over 12-16" on each side of the joint. That's what a pro would do.

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